Faces in the crowd: WNC crowdfunding initiatives

"Our pilot grow space is a formerly vacant 6,000 square foot greenhouse on four acres in a fertile valley about 15 minutes north of downtown Asheville — home to more than 170 businesses that practice aromatherapy and seven schools of natural healing," says Ian Montgomery, founder of Blue Ridge Aromatics. Montgomery's mission is to provide small-batch, locally made essential oils and hydrosols. Image from Blue Ridge Aromatics' campaign page

Crowdfunding platforms make it possible for individuals and organizations of any size to harness social networks and raise startup capital for projects that might otherwise fail due to lack of funding. Each week, Xpress highlights notable Western North Carolina crowdsourcing initiatives that may inspire readers to become new faces in the crowd.


“[Blue Ridge Aromatics] is the natural outcome of my life’s story,” says Ian Montgomery on his crowdfunding page. Armed with years of horticulture experience and a master’s degree in business administration, Montgomery wants to bring a local flair, eco-consciousness and greater sense of transparency to essential oil distillation. His 6,000 square-foot organic greenhouse has the capacity to grow about 1,800 pounds of herbs like peppermint, basil, thyme and oregano each month using a vertical hydroponic drip system. Plus, Montgomery plans to utilize another four acres beside the greenhouse for traditionally gardened herbs like lavender, rosemary and sage. Altogether, the self-described aromatic alchemist says he could produce about 10 liters of essential oil per month (650 bottles at a commonly sold size of 15 milliliters each). Montgomery aims to raise 25,000 by Thursday, March 26, to build his distillation unit, ready the greenhouse, purchase raw materials and build a three-month operating fund.


“This year, Asheville Wordfest is turning its focus on Asheville — a city at the brink of great change,” says event organizer Laura Hope Gill. “What better time to take a day and write about it, honor it, tell about it, reflect upon it, find out what it is … before it changes any more.” Gill has planned 15 sessions with unique topics, each facilitated by a narrator and intended to elicit audience thought and prose. She’s also soliciting written responses on Asheville’s evolution from folks who can’t attend. Wordfest 2015, which takes place Friday and Saturday, May 1-2 at various times, did not receive funding, and so Montgomery aims to raise $5,000 to “make the festival happen.”

Event poster from Asheville Wordfest facebook page
Event poster from Asheville Wordfest Facebook page


“Our goal is to spread our love of preserving tradition to each person who enjoys our tasty jams and pickles,” says Jessica Demarco, co-founder of Copper Pot and Wooden Spoon. Demarco and her brother Dan Stubee built the joint venture just as they concoct their products — from scratch. After beginnings at a local farmers market, the duo’s product line slowly expanded into regional grocery stores. Now the siblings are considering several offers from high-end grocers interested in carrying their artisan products. “With your help we can fill pantries across the country with hand-crafted, all-natural goodness,” says Demarco, who aims to raise $5,000 by Friday, March 20, to scale up production in anticipation of the larger distribution network.


Much like the band’s crowdfunding strategy, the Galen Kipar Project is a group effort. Comprised of Lyndsay Pruett, Aaron Balance, Jeremy Young, Benjamin Portwood, Jon Morrow, Camelia Delk and Galen Kipar (plus frequent guest musicians), the musical troupe calls their work “a fusion of folk, classical, jazz, and blues.” The members put the brakes on their usual pace, allowing the band’s most recent collection of songs to “marinate for two years” before beginning the recording process. Now that the studio days are behind them, the septet needs a helping hand with wrapping up the project. Kipar and friends aim to raise $12,500 by Sunday, March 22 to offset recording, production and duplication costs. Plus, 5 percent of funds raised (or 10 percent of funds beyond the goal) will be donated to the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project and Mountain True.

Send your crowdsourcing campaign news to kmcreynolds@mountainx.com. A limited number of campaigns will be highlighted each week, at Xpress‘ discretion. Campaigns must be locally based and should represent a current project with an achievable goal. Conditions are subject to change. Read about more WNC campaigns here.


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About Kat McReynolds
Kat studied entrepreneurship and music business at the University of Miami and earned her MBA at Appalachian State University. Follow me @katmAVL

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